Research shows acceptance is key to prevent suicide among LGBTQ people

The Trevor Project’s website says many LGBTQ children and teenagers experience stress related to not feeling accepted, which can contribute to mental illnesses. CT file photo

Anya Sczerzenie, Contributing Writer

LGBTQ youth are 40% less likely to attempt suicide if they have just one accepting adult in their lives, according to new survey data released by the Trevor Project.

This adult does not have to be a parent, although accepting parents were among the adults mentioned in the results. Other accepting adults could be a caregiver, family member, guidance counselor, teacher or health care provider.

“I definitely think that having a couple accepting adults in my life was really helpful for me,” said freshman cinema major Zoey Hornbeck. “Throughout school I had a lot of teachers who were supportive and I used them as a safe space. I definitely think these people helped me when I was in a dark place in my life.”

Hornbeck, who is transgender, also added that her mother’s support meant a lot to her.

“I experienced a lot of hate from everyone but her,” she said.

The Trevor Project’s website says many LGBTQ children and teenagers experience stress related to not feeling accepted, which can contribute to mental illnesses. Previous research by the group found a link between support from others and decreased suicide attempts in LGBTQ people.

Eric Berdis, a graduate assistant at the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs said there is now more support for LGBTQ youth than when he graduated high school in 2008.

“We didn’t have a gay-straight alliance at my school. The drama club did have a safe zone sign on it, saying that this was a safe teacher,” Berdis said. “Growing up, the signal was so hidden that you wouldn’t even notice it if you weren’t looking for it.

Berdis also said queer adult role models can help young LGBTQ people feel accepted and think about their own futures. When he was younger, he had a hard time thinking about his career and becoming an artist. Now, he’s a craft and material studies major.

“[In high school] I had people who were supportive, but no one ever said ‘I’m gay, I’m fabulous and I’m here’ to me until I went to college,” Berdis said.

“I’m grateful that there are things like Instagram and other social media to show me how queer adults are able to exist,” Berdis said. “[In high school] I had people who were supportive, but no one ever said ‘I’m gay, I’m fabulous and I’m here’ to me until I went to college.”

The Trevor Project was created in 1998 by the producers of the short film “Trevor.” The organization focuses on suicide prevention among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people younger than 25.

Resources for LGBTQ students at VCU

  • Rainbow Group, an LGBTQ-focused support group at Student Counseling, takes place on Fridays at 3 p.m. To register, call 828-6200 or email mguinn@vcu.edu
  • Queer Action is a club for queer students, which focuses on social justice and intersectionality with other social movements. The group can be found on Facebook @queeraction. 
  • The Queer & Trans People of Color Collective is a group specifically for queer and trans students of color at VCU. The organization is on Facebook @qtpocvcu.
  • For an urgent mental health crisis, contact the suicide prevention lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor lifeline at 1-866-488-7386 or call 911.

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